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UFC Vegas 85 preview: ‘Dolidze vs. Imavov’ predictions


Are you ready for MAWR APEX?!?

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is just one day away from the upcoming UFC Vegas 85 mixed martial arts (MMA) event, which is set to go down tomorrow night (Sat., Feb. 3, 2024) on ESPN+ from inside the promotion’s APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, featuring a middleweight main event between Top 15 title contenders Roman Dolidze and Nassourdine Imavov, a five-round headliner with major title implications for early 2024 and beyond.

Before we dive into the main and co-main event, which includes the 155-pound scrap between lightweight veterans Renato Carneiro and Drew Dober, check out Patrick Stumberg’s breakdowns for the UFC Vegas 85 preliminary card by clicking here and here. Get all the latest “Dolidze vs. Imavov” odds and betting props courtesy of DraftKings right here. For the rest of tomorrow night’s UFC Vegas 85 main card predictions click here.

185 lbs.: Roman Dolidze vs. Nassourdine Imavov

Roman “The Caucasian” Dolidze

Record: 12-2 | Age: 35 | Betting line: +140
Wins: 7 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 2 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 6’2“ | Reach: 76” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.02 | Striking accuracy: 44%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.01 | Striking Defense: 55%
Takedown Average: 1.72 (50% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 33%
Current Ranking: No. 8 | Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Marvin Vettori

Nassourdine Imavov

Record: 12-4, 1 NC | Age: 28 | Betting line: -165
Wins: 5 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 3 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 75” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.55 | Striking accuracy: 53%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.76 | Striking Defense: 58%
Takedown Average: 1.09 (31% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 72%
Current Ranking: No. 11 | Last fight: No Contest against Chris Curtis

Roman Dolidze looked to be the next big thing at 185 pounds, racking up a 6-1 record inside the Octagon and putting together a four-fight win streak with three consecutive knockouts over well-traveled veterans. That includes his destruction of Jack Hermansson at UFC Orlando back in late 2002, good enough to propel “The Caucasian” (awful nickname) into middleweight title contention. But getting to the promised land (usually) requires eligible 185-pounders to get through one of the three big gatekeepers in Robert Whittaker, Jared Cannonier, and Marvin Vettori. Dolidze drew the latter for UFC 286 last March and saw his momentum go up in smoke, due mostly to the insane durability of “The Italian Dream.” The loss was definitely a setback but not a catastrophic one, as the Georgian remains ranked in the division Top 10. That said, falling to Imavov this weekend in “Sin City” — especially considering Dolidze turns 36 in July — would pretty much eliminate him from the middleweight title chase.

Just don’t expect Dolidze to be campaigning on his own behalf.

“What do you want me to say? Big words and to say, ‘Yes, it’s No. 1 contender fight?’ No, I’m not that guy,” Dolidze said at the UFC Vegas 85 media day (watch it here). “I’m sure there will be somebody who will start talking like that, but it’s a good, interesting fight. And I think after this fight we can get a top-five opponent. Definitely, we deserve [that]. And [then] let’s see what will happen. No one knows.”

Like Dolidze, the 28 year-old Nassourdine Imavov enjoyed a red-hot start to his UFC career, jumping out to a 4-1 mark with a pair of technical knockout finishes. The hard-hitting Parisian also ended the Edmen Shahbazyan experiment before it ever got started and followed that up by shutting down the always-dangerous Joaquin Buckley. Also like Dolidze, Imavov was unable to pass the gatekeeper test, getting outworked by Sean Strickland at UFC Vegas 67, long before we knew “Tarzan” was championship material. His rebound fight against Chris Curtis would have likely told us what the future holds for Imavov, but a clash of heads sent that bout to a No Contest at UFC 289 last June. The former Thunderstrike Fight League welterweight champion is seven years younger than “The Caucasian” at 28, which may be the biggest advantage for Imavov coming into this five-round affair.

“It’s true that 2023 was a pretty complicated year,” Dolidze said at the UFC Vegas 85 media day (watch it here). “But I gained a lot of experience and I want it to serve me well on Saturday and show how much better I’ve got during this year. It’s my second main event. Last time it was the first time I did five, five-minute rounds. It was like UFC and life gave me a second chance to shine, so I want to take this chance and shine on Saturday. The ranking is very important for me. Once you get into the Top 10 or the Top 5, at any point you can fight for the belt. And the belt is my goal, my main focus. So I want to be there and be able to fight for the belt.”

This is a tough fight to pick because both fighters are so well matched. I’m sticking with Imavov because he’s younger and still improving, where Dolidze seems to have reached his ceiling. That said, the wrestling (and who opts to use it) remains the x-factor for this fight. “The Caucasian” is probably going to be too tough to finish, but as we’ve seen in previous fights, he may also be too lean (in terms of volume) when it comes time to score rounds.

Prediction: Imavov def. Dolidze by decision

155 lbs.: Renato Carneiro vs. Drew Dober

Renato “Moicano” Carneiro

Record: 17-5-1 | Age: 34 | Betting line: -180
Wins: 0 KO/TKO, 10 SUB, 7 DEC | Losses: 3 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 5’11“ | Reach: 72” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.75 | Striking accuracy: 47%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.07 | Striking Defense: 60%
Takedown Average: 1.66 (46% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 74%
Current Ranking: No. 13 | Last fight: Submission win over Brad Riddell

Drew Dober

Record: 27-12, 1 NC | Age: 35 | Betting line: +150
Wins: 14 KO/TKO, 6 SUB, 7 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 6 DEC
Height: 5’8“ | Reach: 70” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.58 | Striking accuracy: 40%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.46 | Striking Defense: 51%
Takedown Average: 0.68 (17% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 56%
Current Ranking: No. 15 | Last fight: Technical knockout win over Ricky Glenn

Renato Carneiro will reach his 10-year anniversary with UFC later this year and after a decade of violence inside the Octagon, the Brazilian remains ranked outside the division Top 10. That should give you an idea of where he’s headed at age 34, competing now in the shark infested waters of lightweight after starting things out at 145 pounds. The toughest opponent for “Moicano” (Portuguese for “Mohawk”) over the last several years has been consistency, though you can make a case against his striking, as well. That’s not to suggest he’s not effective at range, because we’ve seen Carneiro hold his own against some pretty savvy strikers, but to go 23 fights without scoring a single knockout is telling. Making up for his lack of knockout power is the Brazilian’s top shelf jiu jitsu, good enough for double-digit submissions, like the one he scored against Brad Riddell at UFC 281 in New York.

“I’m not taking it easy on him, I don’t think he’s an easy fight,” Moicano said at the UFC Vegas 85 media day (watch it here). “But I think I’m better than him. I think I’m more well-rounded. I think I can strike with him on the feet. Probably he has more power than me in the hands, right? Knockout artist. But at the end of the day, I think I’m even better than him in the striking. No disrespect to him, but I will beat him on Saturday.”

Drew Dober has also been around the block a few times, making his Octagon debut as part of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 Finale all the way back in late 2018. The first half of his UFC career was unremarkable, at best, and it appears somewhere along the way Dober decided to abandon this whole MMA thing and just start swinging for the fences. The strategy appears to have paid off, giving Dober 14 wins by knockout, including his first-round finish over Ricky Glenn at UFC Vegas 80. The Nebraskan gives up three inches in height and two inches in reach and is one year older than Carneiro at 35. Dober is just barely hanging on to the lightweight rankings at No. 15, which makes tomorrow night’s fight a very important battle for the future of his UFC career.

“The opportunity to fight a guy like Moicano, who’s equally as vicious, violent, and he’s a gamer,” Dober said at the UFC Vegas 85 media day (watch it here). “He’s fought guys like Jose Aldo, The Korean Zombie, he took [Rafael dos Anjos] on like five days’ notice. The guy is a monster. These are the fights that excite me because I know he’s going to bring that out in me, as well, and it’s going to be bloody. It’s going to be violent and fun. A smile on both our faces. These are the fights and moments that I want to be remembered.”

Carneiro has been knocked out three times in five losses and will enter this fight fully aware that Dober will be looking to send the Brazilian’s head into the APEX parking lot. Whether or not “Moicano” wants to roll the dice and make a statement on the feet is likely to dictate the outcome of this fight. Considering his last appearance was in late 2022, he may not have the cardio to be competitive in the second half of the fight. It’s also worth pointing out that Dober has been taken down 25 times in his UFC career and four of his 12 losses have come by way of submission.

As far as I’m concerned, this is Carneiro’s fight to lose.

Prediction: Carneiro def. Dober by submission

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the UFC Vegas 85 main card predictions RIGHT HERE.

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 85 On ESPN+

TOP-RANKED LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT REMATCH! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) kicks off its 2024 mixed martial arts (MMA) campaign on Sat., Jan. 20, 2024, in Las Vegas, Nevada, with No. 3-ranked Light Heavyweight contender, Magomed Ankalaev, running it back against No. 7-seeded Johnny Walker after their initial wild encounter went up in smoke. In UFC Vegas 84’s co-main event, Lightweight legend, Jim Miller, locks horns with upstart knockout artist, Gabriel Benitez, in an intriguing 155-pound showdown.

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 85 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 4 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 85 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive here. For the updated and finalized “Dolidze vs. Imavov” fight card and ESPN+ line up click here.

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